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A comment deserving more than a reply... with Update

by papicek Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 08:19:51 AM EST

Inspired by a comment, "Regarding Sudan..." made by citizen53 in the DailyKos Midday Open Thread of Sunday, 8 March.

"There is an argument in HR circles that the indictment was for show and in the end has little to do with the real problem of protecting people.

Like was done with the formation of the ICTY regarding Yugoslavia, it makes people think something is being done because not much, in reality, is.

We often are pacified by perception.

Humanitarian intervention may makes more sense, even if it ends up being illegal in international law, like Kosovo.  Not many really complained about the violation that saved lives.

Sadly, this is the state of international law, where an antiquated UN Charter does not afford the world a way to address internal problems as the issue of sovereignty is abused by bad leaders who commit war crimes against their own people."

Two points I'd like to address here. More beneath the fold...

Promoted by Colman - interesting diary and comments thread.

The split between human rights activists and humanitarians over the ICC warrants for Omar al Bashir has been noted in WPR blog post, "Human Rights vs. Human Life in Sudan" as well as in the LA Times article, "Good vs. Good" by David Rieff that WPR blogger Michael Keating took note of. The issue itself is nothing new, and is the reason why respected and trusted organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross explicitly refuse to take sides in conflicts and refuse to report on situations where it has knowledge of impending atrocities. No humanitarian organization would be allowed to work anywhere if governments refuse to let them in (as in the case of Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis) or if aid went to predominantly anti-government populations. The recent spate over a letter from Hamas addressed to President Obama illustrates just how narrow a path IGO's and NGO's must tread in dealings with host countries. The discretion of humanitarian aid workers must remain absolute. I imagine that working in an aid organization like the ICRC must command total commitment, because the secret-service-like devotion must extend even to those no longer working with that organization. Humanitarian aid workers world wide should therefore command our utmost respect.

However, the thinking among human rights advocates is that humanitarian aid alone doesn't get us where we need to go. The reason being is that overwhelmingly, humanitarian disasters accompany conflict. The humanitarian problems of famine and disease may have fundamental causes such as the climate change effects in the Sahel, or in the rise of food prices brought about by the effects of free-market madness on the cost and use of fertilizer. (see World fertilizer prices surge 200% in 2007). Situations such as these are usually local and fairly easily to resolve. (Though not always. The present and coming climate change problems are going to be monstrous and require massive international discipline.)

The simple truth is that conflict is a disaster multiplier, and has been since disease struck Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Armed conflict not only multiplies the number of those in need of aid, but it makes aid more difficult to distribute by orders of magnitude. The length of the list of crises makes dismal reading (Doctors Without Borders). Almost every crisis situation listed there is caused or exacerbated by armed  conflict.

One major lesson we can take from the end of the cold war is that the interpretation of unrest anywhere of being either the machination of or aimed at weakening one great power or the other was totally false. Cross border conflict has largely disappeared--Afghanistan and Iraq notwithstanding (both are fundamentally aberrations). What has emerged through the myopia of cold war vision is that ordinary people around the world are willing to take up arms in order to protect their own, or to advance their own limited local interests. The vast majority of armed conflicts since 1991 have been intra-national conflicts--civil wars. I don't doubt that few were prepared for this. What is certain that no institution in existence is even now structured to deal with the massive amount of human misery generated by the global epidemic of internal conflict. Who (other than CIA director William Casey) would have foreseen what effect global communications alone would have on civil unrest?

So the sovereignty question morphs from one of border security and a regime's impunity in dealing with civil unrest, to one of defining the meaning of what I call sovereign legitimacy and the notion of the inalienable rights of its people. After the Rwandan genocide, UN Secretary General Kofi Anan appealed to the international community and issued a challenge:

"...if humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica - to gross and systematic violations of human rights that affect every precept of our common humanity?"

It was Canada who stepped up. Beginning in 2000, Canada funded and organized a mobile global summit to discuss the question of state sovereignty. Over the course of a year, roundtable discussions were held in Beijing, Cairo, Geneva, London, Maputo, New Delhi, New York, Ottawa, Paris, St. Petersburg, Santiago and Washington in order to sound the widest possible range of opinion. Using a concept first articulated by Francis Deng1 of the Brookings Institute, the current debate taking place is over The Responsibility to Protect (.pdf). Early on in the document, the question of sovereignty is expressed with a sensitivity I've never encountered or considered before:

"In a dangerous world marked by overwhelming inequalities of power and resources, sovereignty is for many states their best -- and sometimes seemingly their only -- line of defence. But sovereignty is more than just a functional principle of international relations. For many states and peoples it is also a recognition of their equal worth and dignity, a protection of their unique identities and their national freedom, and an affirmation of their right to shape and determine their own destiny. In recognition of this, the principle that all states are equally sovereign under international law was established as a cornerstone of the UN Charter. . . . "

The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) introduces a new caveat on that ideal. In the very next paragraph:

"However...the conditions under which sovereignty is exercised -- and intervention is practised -- have changed dramatically since 1945. Many new states have emerged and are still in the process of consolidating their identity. Evolving international law has set many constraints on what states can do, and not only in the realm of human rights. The emerging concept of human security has created additional demands and expectations in relation to the way states treat their own people. And many new actors are playing international roles previously more or less the exclusive preserve of states."

R2P places primary responsibility for the physical welfare of its citizens on the soveriegn government. R2P posits an ethic of state governance which if not fulfilled may effectively remove international recognition of that country's sovereignty. A genocide is not required. Even a failure to respond to a natural catastrophe, as after Cyclone Nargis, can be enough to trigger a humanitarian intervention. R2P leaves many dissatisfied. Some feel the concept goes too far, while others feel it falls short. The commission's report is a consensus expression of principle which briefly enjoyed worldwide support.

R2P places ultimate responsibility to protect upon the international community, and the framework for protection is both massive and complex. R2P demands that above all, the world has a Responsibility to Prevent. This is primarily, but not limited to, the diplomatic community. Just identifying conflicts where atrocities are likely is a task some are only just beginning to undertake. As I stated above, Inter-Governmental Organizations (IGO's) and non governmental humanitarian aid groups cannot fulfill this role. So ex-Senator George Mitchell and others founded a mass atrocity/genocide watchdog NGO, The International Crisis Group. ICG does amazing work, and their papers formed the backbone of research that went into my last diary. on the ICC warrants issued for Omar al Bashir. There are others working without a lot of support or recognition, which is one reason I'm writing this very extended reply.

In a recent review of Gary Best's Freedom's Battle Samantha Powers describes some of the characteristics of a moral intervention:

"An ethnic, national, or religious group must be in immediate danger of being massacred on a large scale; a credible multilateral body must support the intervention. The countries intervening must forswear up front the pursuit of commercial or strategic interests in the region. They must commit to remaining for a finite period and in numbers befitting their limited mandates. . . . Finally, the countries entering a foreign land must have done so on the basis of the good-faith calculation that the benefits of such action would outweigh the costs--to the victims, the region, and the intervening parties."

A solution to the conundrum of sovereignty v. intervention has not yet announced itself. Even among progressives:

"For years now  I have favored NATO bombing of the Sudanese military."

The full extent of diplomatic efforts to resolve conflict of all kinds, anywhere in the world is under-reported, so I choose to make it a special concern of mine. As I point out in my last diary, the stakes in Sudan are huge, but the consequences of either success or failure may possibly dwarf whatever outcome achieved there. I do not for a minute believe that the UN Security Council call for the ICC to consider actions against Bashir was undertaken without grave concerns for all the people of Sudan. But time is running out, and if the warrants have achieved one thing, it is to refocus much needed official and public attention on those in South Sudan as well as in Darfur.

Above all, we must pay attention.

UPDATE: In a related development, Sudanese opposition leader Hassan al Turabi was released from prison in Port Sudan where he was sent last January after calling for Bashir to surrender himself to the ICC. (here and here) He was immediately flown to Khartoum, where he continued his public criticism of President Bashir.

1Mr. Deng, a Sudanese diplomat, was appointed Secretary General's Special Representative for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities.

... superstrings: They look pretty in theory, but they don't seem to actually ever happen in the real world.

The example that supporters usually cite is Kosova, but it's not altogether clear that terror-bombing Beograd actually helped anything (and that's what happened - "air war" is a euphemism if there ever was one, particularly when the stuff you're bombing is hundreds of km away from the place where the shooting is).

In order to effectively police a population in a state where you cannot trust the government, you'll need to deploy a very large number of boots on the ground (the rule of thumb I heard somewhere is around 1-2 % of the population). Otherwise, you'll be spread too thin to be able to do much good. In the case of Sudan, that means something on the order of a hundred thousand soldiers, give or take a factor of two or three.

Any power that is politically and logistically capable of putting together an expeditionary force of ten divisions, shipping them to a foreign continent, supplying them while there and keeping them there for an open-ended peacemaking operation... is unlikely to be the kind of power that you want to be in charge of a peacemaking operation.

Because, logistically, that kind of operation looks like a colonial war. Maintaining the capability to fight colonial wars is not cheap. So it is not unreasonable to assume that you don't keep the machinery of colonial war at hand if you don't plan on using it in the not so far future.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 05:55:52 AM EST
Who in their right mind would want to send its troops to police a country that is pretty much totally under arms already? I doubt that the military option is even on the table.

No. The more I think about it, the more I see the ICC move as being strictly legal and diplomatic instead of an escalation pointing towards an invasion sometime in the future. The ICC has a small, but fairly consistent history of relative success. If it doesn't overreach, I think it can keep that streak going.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 06:19:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We could stop the genocide in Darfur easily without going to war against Sudan. The only thing needed is Starvid's [Neocon Moment Alert] Plan.

There are four stages of escalation in it.

1. Have the French smuggle arms to the Darfur militias.

Pros: very cheap, ak47's, RPG's and technicals will do, and should have great effect. The Fur people might still lose the war and be wiped of the face of the earth, but then they will at least die like men, fighting, instead of being slaughtered like cattle. A great improvement, ceteris paribus.

Cons: they might become too succesful and start counter-genociding, but then, those janjaweed people really had it coming and no one will shed any tears for them. Also PC do-gooders might whine about arms smuggling, but the French always get away with anything.

If this isn't enough, escalate to the next step.

2. Send in Blackwater.

Pros: Blackwater advisors will lend great increases in the fighting power of the militias, considering that they are all bad asses and have lots of gear. Will still be relatively cheap, and can't be tracked to any state. Well, at least there is deniability. If anyone asks about how they're payed, they'll say they've gotten oil concessions to exploit when the war's won. It might even be true.

Cons: the PC do-gooders really don't like Blackwater and would rather see 100.000 Fur people be raped and chopped to pieces than see 1000 Rhodesians, South Africans, Brits, Russians and Americans go in there and kill people. For profit.

If more firepower is needed, see step three.

3. Have Blackwater call in CAS from the French Airforce. Well, the Blackwater Airforce crewed by a curious number of Francophone "volunteers".

Pros: Will annihilate anything the Sudanese sends forth.

Cons: Hugely increased political liability, but since we're talking about both the French and Central Africa, there's a good chance no one will really notice. The French have after all bombed the janjaweed during the laste few years, and you hadn't heard of that, have you?

If this still don't work, we launch a "police action". See step four.

4. The French (or someone else) level the Khartoum governmental district to the ground.

Pros: show's we're very pissed off, and strikes directly at the Sudanese elite.

Cons: impossible to do it under the media radar, even for the French.

:: ::

Of course, none of these rather simple things will be done because no one really cares about black people.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Mar 10th, 2009 at 12:33:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
[Neocon Moment Alert] I like your style.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 10th, 2009 at 12:39:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course, none of these rather simple things will be done because no one really cares about black people.

We could always do it as the token action to prove we don't just care about white people, and then quote it endlessly as proof for the next 50 years. but they probably have too much oil or other natural resources for that claim to seem realistic.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Mar 10th, 2009 at 01:06:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
AFAIK, the main resources are dust and scorpions.

The oil might just be there, or not. And even if it is there, it might not be there in enough quantities for exploitation to make commercial sense. Or it might be to far away from a market to make sense. Or there might be lots of other problems.

But since when have journaslists cared about such nuance? If we say Blackwater is payed with oil concessions, they'll swallow it hook, line and sinker, because it just the kind of cliche which would fit perfectly into Journalist Worldview 1.0.

And further, the place is an utter Hellhole, no nice hotels at all, so no journalist would go there except Robert Fisk, whom no one listens to because he is an antisemite(tm).

Also, the security situation will be so bad no journalist can operate unless embedded with the troops, which Fisk refuses to be.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Tue Mar 10th, 2009 at 01:21:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your title says it.  

The genocide in the Sudan is a resource war--a war for oil.  Who gets that oil?  Every country in the world has an interest here, and it is not an interest where the lives of the local people figure at all, except as excuses, dupes, obstacles, or tools.  

If humanitarian organizations can save a few of these people, that is all to the good.  Good luck!  They will need it.  

International macinations are just that--macinations. Perhaps the local people will get to select from a list who gets to genecide them.  

How sweet!  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Mar 25th, 2009 at 04:44:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some points.

First off, since these sort of humanitarian problems often as not come about from civil war, would not a decisive intervention on one side or the other, followed by a traditional humanitarian operation in cooperation with the now-friendly government make more sense?  Sure, taking sides is a violation of sovereignty, but since that's already on the table, might as well think about the BEST violation of sovereignty.

Putting sovereignty aside, one should also think about partition.  In many parts of the world, current borders are ridiculous post-colonial artifices that have proven unworkable.  If a nation is prone to constant civil war between two regional/ethnic factions, shouldn't the two just be separated?

These are rather heavy handed tactics that reek of imperialism.  No - they are a form of imperialism.  But this is a discussion to have, I suppose - is the imperialistic suppression of dysfunctional elites preferable to the humanitarian catastrophe that results when those same dysfunctional elites decide to fight it out over crumbs?

Finally, let's think this through in a historical context.  If the global community has a responsibility to intervene in cases of a states abdication of its duty to protect its own citizens, then should Europe have intervened to stop Stalinism?  Or Maoism?  The reasons why Europe didn't are obvious, but it's worth thinking through them in this context.

by Zwackus on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 06:25:12 AM EST
I think you're overstating the nature of the international communities actions towards Sudan. Economic sanctions haven't been suggested. Nobody is asking China to stop buying Sudanese oil, nobody is asking Russia to back away from the oil development projects it is being offered, as everyone knows that the effects of sanctions bypasses the rulers and can be devastating to the population.

The other side of the imperialist coin is that in order to be recognized as a member of the international system, it is reasonable to expect that you don't commit mass atrocities on your own citizens because you want the oil beneath the ground they live on.

We are a long, long way from "imperialism" here.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 07:07:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But absolutely we should look at things in a historical context. Would Stalin have been able to purge the Kulaks if images had been broadcast throughout the world of the consequences? I doubt he would have lasted a year.

That being said, there is an element of fighting the last war here. Certainly Kofi Anan was moved to start this whole debate as a direct result of his experience with Rwanda.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 07:17:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How many images of the 800 000 dead in Iraq have you seen on TV lately?
by vladimir on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 11:37:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, one other thing. R2P explicitly tries to do two things: avoid taking sides in a conflict, or aim at a regime change. The authors go on at some length about the necessity of "Right Intentions" in military interventions, including leaving the military option dead last on the list of measures to take. Very much in the spirit of Susan Powers' statement I quoted.

The intervention in Sudan is an attempt, I believe deiberate by some, to mitigate a conflict through purely diplomatic means. So, I hope the CPA succeeds in the end, though I think it's a hundred-year project. The CPA is a monster of an agreement.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 01:21:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Samantha Power

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 03:20:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Putting sovereignty aside, one should also think about partition.  In many parts of the world, current borders are ridiculous post-colonial artifices that have proven unworkable.  If a nation is prone to constant civil war between two regional/ethnic factions, shouldn't the two just be separated?

Lincoln would object.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Tue Mar 10th, 2009 at 10:03:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, he would.  Then again, the Civil War was also a pretty severe humanitarian crisis.  Should it have been prevented from outside?
by Zwackus on Wed Mar 11th, 2009 at 08:16:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Should it have been prevented from outside?

I would venture a yes, but the world wasn't so high minded in those days.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Mar 12th, 2009 at 07:23:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How precisely?

The Cyprus solution? How many divisions would that have required?

And how would the intervening powers know that what they were getting was a Cyprus, not a Lebanon?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Mar 12th, 2009 at 07:42:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think diplomatic and economic intervention could have solved the problems before the war began.  The States and central government mechanism were clearly incapable of doing it.  However, I do not believe the war was inevitable. In fact it resulted from serious blunder and miscalculation (not unusual causes of war) that could have been corrected easily.  The underlying causes would, admittedly taken great effort to resolve, but given the conditions of the day it could have been accomplished and 600,000 plus lives spared.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri Mar 13th, 2009 at 12:59:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So something like telling the Confeds that the rest of the world wouldn't buy slave-picked cotton?

That might work. Of course, it would also have presented rather serious issues for Britain and France given their... less than savoury behaviour in their colonies.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Mar 13th, 2009 at 11:27:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly like that, and telling the North that the slavery issue was a national problem that everyone had to help resolve.  The issue of what to do with all those suddenly unemployed slaves was one that pushed Southerners to war more than just the right to keep slaves.  No more passing laws to keep freed slaves in the Southern States.  Tough decisions and proper intervention back then would have saved a lot of heartache and problems that we've faced over the years, regardless of ones color and background.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Fri Mar 13th, 2009 at 03:43:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Outstanding diary, papicek.  One of the best discussions of the fraught problem of Sovereignty vs. humanitarian intervention that I have read.  I was particularly taken with Samantha Power's comment, in part:

European Tribune - A comment deserving more than a reply...

The countries intervening must forswear up front the pursuit of commercial or strategic interests in the region.

I think it is unrealistic, in the current world order, to expect any power to put thousands of troops and Billions of treasury at risk if there is no discernible commercial or strategic benefit for its population.  International relations simply doesn't work that way.  If it did, the US would have invaded Zimbabwe and not Iraq.

But even that example reveals an even bigger problem, because it is arguable that it was never in the USA's interest to invade Iraq in the first place - only in the interests of part of the US elite.

And that reveals the bigger problem.  The world isn't neatly divided into good states and bad states, where the good states, out of some non self interested idealism intervene in the bad for the benefit of some higher ideal.

Sure, that was why the US said it invaded Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and toppled numerous Governments in Latin America and elsewhere, and from a particular ideological position those interventions might have made sense, but from another they simply reveal one power seeking to control another.

My other concern - slightly echoing comments above - is that military interventions brutalise not just those populations where the intervention takes place, but the whole culture of militarism as a solution to anything is strengthened in those countries doing the intervening.

There is a certain post colonial arrogance in assuming that "advanced democracies" acting from thousands of miles away - have a much better handle on how a local issue can be resolved.  Sometimes there is simply no substitute for the locals to learn to live with each other.  Often the "local antagonism" has been grossly exacerbated, if not created, by external interventions such as arms trading, resource depletion, and "development" policies in the first place.  Would the Israeli Palestinian issue be easier to resolve if neither side got outside "assistance"?

Thus there are very few "opportunities" for"clean" interventions.  Saddam was a tyrant, yet was the instability created by his external military removal an improvement?  Mugabe needs to go. But would the military elite who would probably take over if he died/was removed tomorrow be an improvement?

Ultimately there is no substitute for political development, but while there are many tomes written about economic development the concept of political development is almost non-existent.  The whole concept was given a bad name by the neo-cons assuming that the military imposition of US style democracy would solve all problems.

Hard as it can be to define processes of political development that are not ideologically charged, it is easy to see what destroys the opportunities for political development:-  the widespread availability of ever more powerful arms, grossly unequal economic development, the expropriation of whole regions/peoples by outside interests.

So perhaps rather than just looking at the problem spots where perhaps only a "fire brigade" style intervention can ameliorate the immediate situation, we should also be looking at furthering the improvement of standards of Governance worldwide - the development of a body of international law and enforcement agencies which might - in extremis - intervene militarily, but whose primary remit is to prevent the proliferation of weaponry, the regulation of arms industries, the promotion of conflict resolution mediation and arbitration services, the promotion of more equal economic and political development.

But hey - that might effect our position at the top of the pile - so that can't happen.  Far easier to teach those savages a lesson every now and then.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 07:38:31 AM EST
The world isn't neatly divided into good states and bad states

No indeed. Which is why I lean toward the pluralist image of international relations theory, in which bureaucratic, or private entities carry out actions in lieu of a stated national foreign policy, or in direct contravention of their country's foreign policy. We saw that happen during the Cuban Missile crisis when the Canadian Navy, apparently on it's own as the issue was still being debated in Ottowa, decided to patrol the North Atlantic while the US Navy put up the maritime blockade around Cuba. We see it today in Pakistan where elements of the ISI support their creation, the Taliban, while Islamabad carrys out good relations with Washington.

The debate is still ongoing. R2P describes no implementation mechanism, only the parameters by which any such measures should be carried out. The doctrine of "Right Intentions" in military interventions is emphasized.

Everyone thinks I'm backing military interventions here, I'm not. I was shocked by that comment about NATO bombing the Sudanese military. For me, intervention takes many forms, primarily diplomatic. This was supposed to be a diary, or series, that was to begin on the anniversary of the proximate cause of the Rwandan genocide, Apreil sixth, but the ICC warrants gave me an openning I couldn't resist. I'll have more to say in April. And with that, I need to run to work.

BTW, all I had to read was, "Outstanding diary, papicek" for you to get what after careful consideration, I felt was a well-deserved "Excellent" rating :)

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 08:05:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Most of my diaries are fairly lazy, off the cuff pieces, without careful referencing of source materials and carefully nuanced argument.  Yours looks well informed and the product of quite a bit of productive work and so warrants a special mention.  We need more diaries from people with a specialist interest in particular areas.  I'm too much of a dilettante!

notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 08:15:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Frank Schnittger:
Most of my diaries are fairly lazy, off the cuff pieces, without careful referencing of source materials and carefully nuanced argument.  

ok, but your comments are some of the best reasoned and pithiest here at ET.

great diary, papicek!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 12:46:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ultimately there is no substitute for political development, but while there are many tomes written about economic development the concept of political development is almost non-existent.

Actually, there is lots of work out there concerning political development, as I've learned in just the first chapter of Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy: The Human Development Sequence, by Inglehart and Welzel. (you think those two ever went on a date?)

Ok gotta run. That's for a future diary.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 08:11:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
.... Speaking of nuanced argument....yea - I'm well aware there's a lot of stuff out there on political development, but most of it is even more ideologically charged than the theories of economic development they often mimic.  The very title "modernisation" implies a progression from primitive to advanced - from  underdeveloped to developed.  But guys like Andre Gunder Frank argued that much of what the first world does in the third is about underdeveloping not developing it, about preventing third world countries developing their own models and improvements in society by creating a greater dependency on the first...  

I did some undergrad work debunking some of that stuff - because it too, I think, doesn't fully explain what is happening in many countries, and in any case, globalisation doesn't really allow countries to develop in isolation.  

I suppose my big disagreement is with "one size fits all" global solutions or ideological prescriptions for success. I'm more interested in developing political processes for governance than being too prescriptive as to what the short term outcomes of those processes should be.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 08:30:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
After watching the ICC in action, I say, "Please no, make them stay away." They are highly politicized on any number of fronts.

They were highly in favor of the Kosovo intervention. Someone will have to explain to me how 1,500 deaths spread evenly between Serbs and Albanians over the prior two to three years constitutes a necessary intervention. I'm not seeing it at all. The negotiations at Ramboullet support my point-of-view.

The ICC is heavily tilted toward powerful global actors. To a degree, obviously, so is the UN. In Bosnia and Kosovo, we saw the UN taking on charges that were largely outside its scope, and often the charges were contradicted by its own employees and others in institutions it set up (such as the ICTY, UNHRW). UN Generals such as Morillon at the ICTY, prosecutors such as Del Ponte at the ICTY, investigators such as Helen Ranta, all showed that political games are played. I can point to a spirit of collaboration among certain powerful actors and the ICC right now that makes the ICC seem a political pawn.

I'm actually in favor of humanitarian intervention. I'm not so certain I want there to be pan-global organizations involved. So far, the abuse of such interventions in highly contested territory (Balkans, Georgia) has proven evident, while elsewhere (Africa) we have non-interventions.

Then we have to address the problems of preferring interventions over diplomacy, as in the case of Samantha Power. I read an essay of hers in the USA's TIME magazine a few months back, in which she projects some light on her vision of foreign policy problems in the future. She argues that Kosovo matters to our future because it underscores some alarming features of the current international system.

First, going back a little bit on Power, I found that in her book on genocides, A PROBLEM FROM HELL, Power did a fantastic job of diagnosing the factors behind the genocides in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, but she did not venture heavily into the diplomatic nitty-gritty prior to the wars. In fact, the one section of the book that I took heavy note of was her discussion of the 1992 Cyrus Vance-Lord Carrington-Lord Owen Peace Plan which was meant to bring Serbs, Croats and Muslims together. All three leaders of each ethnic group had agreed to the plan, though James Baker came in at the last minute and scuttled it. In retrospect, Power damned that plan for essentially giving the Serbs time to organize their paramilitaries. She went a little beyond that and basically considered the plan a sop for the Serbs since it broke the territorial integrity of Bosnia and gave the Serbs their own Bosnian Republic. Left unsaid in her book, however, was that the Dayton Plan essentially reproduced almost the same exact result, as we are seeing in Bosnia even today. In the Vance-Owen Plan, the Serbs were to receive 51% of the territory. In the Dayton Plan, they received 49% (the Serbs held over 70% of Bosnian territory in their control during the war). Presumably, then, Power would not see a great difference between the two plans. So, [and now I'm projecting how Power may be influencing Obama's policy], I'm imagining that if Power had been advising the US President at the time, and that if she like Baker had scuttled the Vance-Owen Peace agreement, then she would have advised committing ground troops to Bosnia in defense of the Muslims. After all, by breaking the peace agreement in 1992, the West accomplished nothing. 100,000 were slaughtered in the interim until Dayton, around 50,000 of them Muslims. Given Power's plaintive calls for the prevention of genocide, it stands to reason that we would have engaged in a major war in the region with ground troops. If I'm incorrect about this, someone will have to explain to me how the USA and Europe could square their responsibility for scuttling the peace plan with the killing that ensued. The diplomatic charades of 1991-1992 appear, in hindsight, as a huge case of malpractice. The only decision then is, accept the peace plan, or go to ground war as a means of humanitarian intervention. You can't leave the Muslims to the slaughter. Which is of course what happened. If I'm right about Power's preference for intervention over diplomacy, then the positive results of such a ground intervention must be reasonably predictable (avoiding of course Rumsfeldian myopia).

In the TIME piece Power writes:

"Kosovo's ethnic-Albanian leaders have belatedly tried to extend an olive branch to the province's aggrieved 120,000 Serbs. In addition to allowing Serbs in northern Kosovo to have their own police, schools and hospitals, Kosovo's new Prime Minister, Hashim Thaci, did the unthinkable: he delivered part of his inauguration speech in the hated Serbian language. Even in Serbia, whose citizens feel genuine humiliation over losing Kosovo (which Serb nationalists call their "Jerusalem"), the protests should abate."

While it's certainly true that the Albanians have indeed tried to insert the Serbs into the body politic, something in Power's phrasing caught my eye. First, after the Serbs left Kosovo in 1999, there were a series of reprisals which continued until 2004 when 200,000 Serbs were expelled from Kosovo. In the words of Bernard Kouchner--now the FM of France but who ran the province of Kosovo at the time--the reprisals were understandable and even expected given the brutal crackdown on Albanians by Milosevic. However, this history is still with the Serbs as much as the brutal Serb guerilla crackdown weighs on the Albanians. Indeed, this is one of the central contradictions of Kosovo's independence. The EU and US argue that Kosovo's secession does not set a precedent, and that it is unique because of the crimes committed by Milosevic and thugs. In other words, the Albanians cannot live with Serbs any longer. This same logic (which I agree with by the way) is not then considered when Kosovo is refashioned into a multiethnic state. At that point, as Power does here, western diplomats argue that Albanians can live with Serbs side by side. Their logic contradicts, which raises questions about the possible success of Kosovo as a multiethnic state. Furthermore, the Serbs do not trust the Albanian leaders. The former PM before Hashim Thaci was Agim Ceku, the commander of Operation Storm which ethnically cleansed 200,000 Serbs from the Krajina in Croatia. He is being investigated by the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. The man in charge before him, Ramush Haradinaj, was already indicted by the same tribunal for killing Serbs and moderate Albanians. Thaci himself is not trusted by the Serbs as he was a leader of the KLA, which, until early 1999, was considered a terrorist organization by the US and EU. Power drove the backroads of this region and did the hard work in her research. She knows all this. She knows how each ethnic groups STILL feels about each other. She knows very well how the Serbs feel about the Albanian leadership, and especially Thaci, and yet she still wrote this passage which seems blissfully optimistic. Blissful optimism AND humanitarian intervention? How do they mix?

Power then outlines some problems in foreign policy for the next decade:

[Kosovo] exposes the chill in relations between the U.S. and Russia, which is making it difficult for the U.N. Security Council to meet 21st century collective-security challenges. Putin has used the Kosovo standoff as yet another excuse to flaunt his petro-powered invincibility, sending his  successor, PM Dmitri Medvedev, to Belgrade to sign a gas agreement. If a firm international response is to be mobilized toward Iran, Sudan or other trouble spots in the coming years, the U.S. will have to find a way to persuade Russia to become a partner rather than a rival in improving collective security.

There is indeed a chill in relations. One problem is that the UN cannot right now back the West on the issue of Kosovo precisely because the independence of Kosovo violates the UN charter as well as UN resolution 1244. Recently, an UN official in charge of Kosovo (UNMIK) rebuked the EU steering group leader for assuming supreme authority over the state. Russia is conveniently sticking to UN laws in this case. But the trouble is, the fact that it's convenient is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that they are sticking to UN laws.

Power writes about the second problem:

Finally, the disagreements over Kosovo expose the world's fickleness in determining which secessionist movements deserve international recognition.

I certainly agree with her here, but then she writes...

If Kosovo's supporters were more transparent about the factors that made Kosovo worthy of recognition, they could help shape new guidelines. A claimant has a far stronger claim if, like Kosovo, it is relatively homogeneous and not yet self-governing, if it has been abused by the sovereign government and if its quest for independence does not incite its kin in a neighboring country to make comparable demands. Not all secessionists can clear that bar. Iraq's Kurds, for instance, are clamoring for independence. But the Kurds are already exercising self-government, and their independence could have the destabilizing effect of causing the Kurdish population in Turkey to try to secede.

I don't know where Power sees this lack of transparency regarding Kosovo recognition. Kosovo's backers always raise it up as a unique example. Furthermore, pay close attention when Power mentions "new guidelines." She does make an excellent case in A PROBLEM FROM HELL as to the proper methods for interceding in genocides. But refashioning guidelines is a whole other ballgame altogether. Borders are not inviolable if you're slaughtering people. But if oppression becomes a pretext for self-determination, then suddenly we're going to have hotspots all over the globe. Think of the mayhem such a criteria would cause in a country such as Turkey or Macedonia. All you have to do is rise up and then wait for the crackdown.

Next, Power uses the term "relatively homogeneous." This idea of homogeneity is curious especially since Kosovo is supposed to be multiethnic. By all media accounts, there are 1.8 to 2 million Albanians in Kosovo today. There are 120,000-150,000 Serbs there (200,000 left in 2004, and another 100,000 in 1999). In addition, you have another 2-4% comprised of Sandzak Muslims (Slavic Muslims), Egyptians, Gorani, and Gypsies. So now the numbers are 90% Albanian, which maybe meets her definition of homogeneity. In 1999, however, the numbers were 80% Albanian. In the 1980s, they were closer to 70-75% Albanian. Is that homogeneous enough?

The next test: has the populace been abused by the sovereign-government? In Kosovo, yes, obviously. But elsewhere the same test applied also yields "yes" as an answer. The Turkish Kurd-Turkish fight has yielded TEN times as many Kurd civilian deaths as the Albanian-Serb fight in Kosovo. And judging from Turkey's forays into Iraq this summer, it caused a lot less outrage than the Serb youths who burned the US Embassy last spring.

I notice then that Power is careful to add yet another criteria: the quest for independence cannot cite ethnic kin in a foreign country. Of course, the large body of Kurds in the Turkey-Kurdish guerilla wars are not Iraqi Kurds. They are Turkish Kurds. Which begs the question: who is being incited? The Iraqi Kurds by the Turkish Kurds, or vice versa? If we simply switch the perspective a little bit, then Power's criteria collapses (unless she honestly thinks we should intervene on behalf of Turkey's Kurds, as there isn't much fear after all that this will incite the Iraqi Kurds since they already control their destiny). Furthermore, there are also Albanians seeking secession in the Presevo Valley of Serbia, in Montenegro, in Macedonia most especially and in the Chameria/Epirus region of Greece. Kosovo's independence has of course incited ethnic Serb kin in Bosnia and also the Serbs of Kosovo itself toward partition. This criteria of Power's is curious, almost as though the criteria were made to fit the logic.

Ultimately, Power really needs to address a little discussed trigger in the Albanian-Serb fighting. The moderate Kosovo Albanians were marginalized fairly early on (i.e. long before Milosevic began the counter-insurgency crackdown in 1998). Indeed, Kosovo leaders like Haradinaj were in the docket in the Hague for murdering moderate Albanians. Rugova's party was a moderate party seeking secession through peaceful means. He had managed to set up a parallel structure of universities, hospitals, government, police. The KLA, on the other hand, were violent, extremist, and had ties with narco-traffickers. The roots of their victory over the moderates started in the 1980s. In 1981 and 1982, David Binder wrote a series of articles in the New York Times about the rise of the extreme nationalist Albanian groups in Kosovo, which were all coming from hardcore elements in Albania. Concomitantly, nationalists in Serbia such as Milosevic seized on the oppression of Serbs in Kosovo at the time, and he succeeded in radicalizing the whole region.

The lesson I draw then is that radicalism is ultimately a catalyst for change. Extreme nationalism can yield results, and it can also destroy your country (ex. Serbia). This is not a good example for the rest of the world. Rugova's party was a good example. I'm not at all satisfied that Power's new guidelines will not encourage the likes of the KLA in other countries. Once you set those criteria down in a charter, or in another supranational organization which sets criteria for humanitarian intervention, you are essentially asking those with irredentist or separatist bent to think of ways to fulfill the new criteria. It should be enough to prevent tragedies such as Bosnia, Darfur, Rwanda, without a guarantee of reward for the armed militant groups on the ground. There should be punishment for murderers, no doubt. War criminals must pay. But if you're also going to provide a reward, do not be surprised if this scenario gets replayed over and over again. So far, I'm not convinced by Power's new guidelines.

Then, the final question is, who funds groups such as the ICC? Do we trust them? Heck, I can't even trust the ICTY, especially when Carla del Ponte makes sensational allegations against it; I can't trust UN Human Rights Watch, especially when Helen Ranta throws cold water on its impartiality. I recall that the OSCE sent William Walker, of all people, to oversee the treatment of Albanians in Kosovo! William freakin' Walker! I note the ties between UN negotiators, think tanks, security organizations like NATO, NGOs and non-profit human rights organizations, and I see concerted efforts to use every means possible to cow countries (even peaceable countries who haven't oppressed minorities with violence) into being amenable or else. In a perfect world, we could limit interventions to genocides or massacres, but given the evident will to use these humanitarian organizations as political pawns, I am highly skeptical.

I keep thinking that the threat of intervention, coupled with diplomacy, should be a great bargaining tool, but then the possibility always exists that these threats will be used as political motivators. After all, what do they say about diplomacy being war by other means? In addition, the idea that a country could not profit from intervention is dubious especially in hot spots such as Georgia. What would that even mean in a region loaded with natural resources?

by Upstate NY on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 01:58:55 PM EST
This is diary-length and should be a diary.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 02:05:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could make it one but I don't have access to the TIME article online anymore.

So, I'll make it one and link back to this diary.

by Upstate NY on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 02:35:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have access to the TIME article online anymore...

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 02:51:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, indeed. Thank you. That's the article.
by Upstate NY on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 02:55:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a screw-up in my diary. ICC was meant to read ICG.
by Upstate NY on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 02:50:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK. A couple things. Lot of problems with Kosovo. As of now, I've read the Ramboulliet document, and found Appendix B read more like an ultimatum than anything Milosevic could possibly accept. In U.S. Relations with Sudan (video link at the top, no transcript available as of my last access), a roundtable discussion held by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I believe I heard mention of the Serbs having prepositioned earthmoving equipment intended for digging mass graves quickly. I hadn't known that before, but evidently this was used at his trial to indicate intention. I don't know if that's true.

As yet, I have no position on Kosovo, I simply don't know enough. I await the arrival of Just War or Just Peace?: Humanitarian Intervention and International Law, which has lots to say about Kosovo, and I'll need to get my hands on the Kosovo Report.

But wow, what a comment! 4 stars.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 05:50:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just to be clear, Appendix B was put in there AFTER the Serbs had capitulated to all EU, US and NATO demands. The Serbs agreed to move all police, military, gov't officials out of Kosovo, to cede control of Kosovo. This was the opening negotiating point, and the Serbs agreed to the demand. Amazingly, Hashim Thaci rejected the proposal. Albright and Jamie Rubin turned beet red  at the meeting. Albright then walked out into the hallway with Thaci and Rubin, and Thaci still refused to agree.

When the meetings reconvened a day later, Appendix B was on the table. It demanded that NATO also have complete control of Serbia proper, not only Kosovo. That's the stuff that never makes it into the history books.

As for earth digging machines, I treat such reports with a dose of skepticism, which is a pity since I'm sure such machines were put into use. Obviously, people were killed. But, we have to remember, during the Kosovo War, William Cohen claimed 200,000 Albanian men were being held at a soccer stadium. Later he said that 100,000 men had been killed and dumped into the Trepca mines. NATO attacked passenger trains, and when video footage of the event was shown, NATO deliberately sped up the footage 4X to make the attack seem like an accident. Operation Horseshoe itself (supposedly a Serb plan to eliminate all Albanians in Kosovo, even though the word for Horseshoe revealed in the documents was a Croatian word, not a Serb one) was ultimately proven to be a plan hatched by German intelligence. The Racak massacre was uncovered to be a fraud by the UN forensic teams investigating it, which comes as no surprise since the massacre itself was discovered by the notorious CIA agent William Walker and his team. One wonders how an earth removal machine was found when NATO bombers and satellite imagery could not tell Serb military trucks apart from cardboard cutouts (a trick the Serbs learned from Saddam in their unholy alliance with him). 95% of Serb military vehicles rolled out of Kosovo much to the shock of Western military analysts who assumed that much damage had been inflicted. In short, you can't trust anyone in a propaganda war.

by Upstate NY on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 06:50:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hadn't known that about Appendix B, thank you. I had come across one mention of the document and after accessing it online, tabled the whole issue of Kosovo to focus more on Sudan. Which, if you recall, is where I began this. (You guys are killing me with Kosovo. I should have resisted the temptation to blog in response to the Bashir warrants until I was ready.)

I had read about the German hand in Operation Horseshoe, even Wikikpedia mentions it.

I'm wondering now if I can get my hands on the Milosevic trial transcript.

Hmmmmm. . . .

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 07:50:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uhm, transcriptS...hundreds of them.

Indictments, trial decisions, trial orders, trial judgements...APPEALS CHAMBER DECISIONS, Appeals Chamber Orders, President's Orders, Prosecution Documents, Registry Decisions, and Reports. All publicly available, as it should be.

This is a whole cottage industry they've got going there.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 08:11:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Power's new guidelines will not encourage the likes of the KLA in other countries
has already been noted in regard to the KLA itself. Whether their strategy was to provoke a drastic over-reaction from Beograd and thus provoke an international respose in KLA's favor. Though I haven't read this anywhere, it's my thinking that it is precisely this which forms the foundation of Russia's and China's reservervations over R2P, given their internal ethnic group problems. No stretch of the imagination there, and their point is well taken.

Part of the problem with my research is that I'm largely restricted to publicly available documents and much of that is either useless or misleading. It's either that or pony up for things like The Kosovo Report, which runs $95 US, with no guarantees on its intellectual rigor. Also, my stack of books-awaiting remains over 2 feet high as it is. I do the best I can, but donors for my little year long research project here are as yet unforthcoming.

Come back on April 6th, when I'll be going on at length on politicization in the genocide debate.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 06:13:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some points regarding humanitarian interventions:

  1. In Kosovo, military intervention was an unimitigated disaster as far as the humanitarian aims that were claimed (falsly IMHO) are concerned. Not only did the bombing directly cause the sort of atrocities the intervention was supposed to prevent (via the withdrawal of the OSCE monitors on the ground and the reprisal strategy of the Yugoslav army as a response to NATO's bombardment), but it ended up causing an inverted but possibly even more diastrous pogrom against Kosovo's non-Albanians more than 200.000 of whom are still 10 years after the conflict, still refugees, with little hope of ever returning to their homeland. The confict was thus "resolved" in the time honoured method of wiping the losers of the map, a not very humanitarian outcome, I think.

  2. This brings us to the selectivity of intervention. It must be noted that while deploring the (undoubtedly deplorable) Serbian and Bosnian-Serb ethnic cleansing in Croatia and Bosnia, the West was rather understanding of the Croatian cleansing of over 200.000 Croatian Serbs from its territories with the approval of the US. Beyond that one of the countries taking part in the aggression against Serbia in 1999 was Turkey, a country with anti-insurgency tactics and results in that same decade, against its separatist/autonomist Kurdish movement, that make Serbian actions in Kosovo pale in comparison.

  3. Note also that despite common misconceptions it was not NATO's military might that forced Serbian withdrawal from Kosovo (neither was it in Bosnia btw). Rather it was Russian pressure applied because of western blackmail to the Yeltsin government (through IMF loans and such), that made Milosevic capitulate. When he did he agreed to a plan with which he agreed already in Rambouillet, before being presented with new Appendices that were "intolerable". Generally I can't think of a single so-called military "humanitarian intervention" that achieved its goals. The idea that conflict can be solved by force without the agreement of the participating partied seems surreal to me and certainly not grounded in experience. In fact massive investment in conflict prevention and economic motives for reconciliation seem much more effective tools for peace, love and mutual understanding than sending in the marines.

  4. I suspect most people would be rather sceptical of Russian intervention in, say. Central Asia, in the name of democracy. How can one then be less sceptical of intervention by the West, collectively an assortement of ex-colonial powers plus the country with the greatest number of foreign interventions, dictatorship prop-ups etc? This is not a small issue and it is pervasive. There is zero tolerance from the rest of the world to western adventurism and neo-colonialism dressed up in the guise of "humanitarian intervention", western military humanitarianism has near-zero credibility. And of course no one is seriously suggesting bringing to court the masterminds behind the most murderous intervention of recent years, the invasion of Iraq, a war resulting in both a higher death toll than Darfur and more refugees.

  5. Note also that "humanitarian" interventions by non-western countries were strongly opposed by the US and the rest of the Western powers: Despite the obvious good that Vietnamese intervention resulted in by deposing Pol Pot, the US was against it and supported the Khmer Rouge after the Vietnamese intervention.

  6. Finally there is the question of realism: the only possible effect AFAICS of the warrants against Bashir is the subversion of negotiations and diplomacy, which still seem the best bets for anything resembling peace in the area. How is this going to help at all? Is the West going to start a new all-out civil war in Sudan attempting to capture Bashir? Why is giving the impression of doing something impartially, more important than actual improvement of the situation on the ground? Is it some sort of puritan fixation on punishment that I don't get?

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake
by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 02:54:10 PM EST
Why is giving the impression of doing something impartially, more important than actual improvement of the situation on the ground? Is it some sort of puritan fixation on punishment that I don't get?

Yes, humanitarian interventions are sold on the basis of the white hatted West riding to the rescue of poor oppressed underdeveloped helpless natives.  The Serbs made the mistake of being the dominant ethnic group in Yugoslavia and afterwards and rather over-played their hand by engaging in activities that were uncomfortably reminiscent of WW2.

The fact that Albanian/Croatian/Bosnian atrocities followed merely confused the simple narrative required to maintain popular support for expensive interventions and so were largely ignored - even when predicted and expected.

National boundaries have historically been determined largely by the outcomes of wars between princes and other rulers, often in a colonial context.  The problem is that since the 20th. Century advances in military technology and the scale of civilian casualties led to a search for another methodology, but there really isn't any mechanism in International Law for creating new states - as to do so, by definition, violates existing Sovereign boundaries.

Thus gross human rights violations, genocide and the implosion of empires are about the only proximate causes for creating a new state architecture, and usually, even those aren't enough.  Europe/USA has enough problems with the Islamic world without creating a new theatre for war in Europe. So the Serbs were unceremoniously squashed.  Hopefully the resulting fragmentation will soon be accommodated within the EU and allow those divisions to be reduced somewhat, but the bitterness military actions create will take generations to overcome.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 03:43:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
activities that were uncomfortably reminiscent of WW2.

I beg to differ. There is just NO comparison possible here.

by vladimir on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 04:06:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The public perception in this part of the world is that there is. I still can't work out anything resembling a truth through the haze of competing propaganda, except that it was all about a hundred times more complicated than was presented through the media here.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 04:17:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The competing propoganda is a big problem for me. The heavyweights of US foreign policy write in Foreign Affairs magazine, which makes it useless to me. It's extremely rare to find a useful article in FA, though Joseph Muller's essay on ethnicity is one example that comes to mind. Foreign Policy magazine, to which I subscribe, presents me with the same problem. "America's Hard Sell" had one or two insights I find useful and which resonate.

The foreign policy community is verbose, which is both a blessing a a curse, because though there are quite a few gems out there, finding them in all the slag is a huge chore.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 06:40:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The irony in all this, of course, is that while Saddam Hussein was mustard gassing the Kurds in the 1980s, there was no call for humanitarian intervention. Indeed, he was an American ally. And he stayed a European ally all during the 1990s. Yet, because of the deeply idiotic US President of the 2000s, the call to stop Saddam was largely opposed by the global human rights community. It just seems so odd to me, and clearly I realize that the US was not really interested in a humanitarian intervention, that the genocidal lunatic extracted a degree of sympathy. It's also just as clear that Milosevic was really a lightweight compared to Saddam--and the current Iranian leadership, for that matter.

Yet, of all these genocidal lunatics (Bush, Milosevic, Saddam, whomever in Iran decided to annihilate Kurds in the 1980s) the one generally equated with Hitler is Milosevic. Milosevic is probably the lowest on the totem pole when it comes to atrocities perpetrated. If we all agree that the worst crime committed by Milosevic and the Serbs was the thousands killed at Srebrenica, it certainly would surprise most to hear of UN and NATO generals stationed in the Bihac pocket give testimony that they considered the forced kidnapping (and subsequent murder) of those men to be a form of revenge. Why did the UN Dutch troops hold back? Because they (as well as their commanders) were in the pocket a year earlier when Bosnian Muslims had killed 2,500 Serbs. This is indeed the slipperiness of the entire war. 100,000 dead, 50,000 Muslims, but also 50,000 Serbs and Croats. In this light, the unlawful punishment of Serbs in Kosovo seems rather crazy, absurd. The fact that Colin Powell made this evident to Madeleine Albright does me no good since the same man encouraged the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses four years later. It really makes you wonder.

The great ironies, however, come when something like Operation Storm is considered a viable response to the Serbs, or when Bernard Kouchner says that some degree of revenge for Albanians is understandable in Kosovo. It really boggles the mind.

by Upstate NY on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 04:57:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Upstate NY:
And he stayed a European ally all during the 1990s. Yet, because of the deeply idiotic US President of the 2000s, the call to stop Saddam was largely opposed by the global human rights community

I don't know about the US, but the European left was pretty vociferous in its condemnation of Saddam and was then hugely nonplussed by the US invasion which they knew was for all the wrong reasons but which offered the prospect of doing what they couldn't do - actually get rid of him.

South African whites, Apartheid era, were often hugely angry at the "western" condemnation of Apartheid when the deaths and suffering paled in comparison to an Idi Amin.  I argued at the time that the reason for this apparent double standard was that South African whites claimed to be European, Christian, civilised, democrats, and Europeans could not admit their claim to relative legitimately without admitting that racism was ok in Europe as well.

If this analysis is even partially correct, then Milosevic was more harshly judged because he too acted in the name of a European, white Christian, democratic country.  There are plenty of ethnic tensions in and around Europe which could be stirred up if his claim was to be allowed to stand.  Very few (in my neck of the woods anyway) could name the leaders of Croatia, Bosnia, or Kosovo by comparison.

You need a "face of evil" if you want to market an intervention, and Milosevic had the misfortune to become it.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 05:20:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yet, because of the deeply idiotic US President of the 2000s, the call to stop Saddam was largely opposed by the global human rights community.

Are you serious about that?

By far the most people, that died under the rule of Saddam in Iraq, died during the Iran/Iraq war. In this war, in which Iraq attacked Iran, the West in general, but under strict leadership of the USA, supplied Saddam with all the stuff, that later was cited as WMD.

There are credible hints, that Saddam were given hints, that he can attack Kuwait, without Western reaction. Saddam asked the US for permission for that war. My best guess, as to why this was allowed, is, that after the end of the cold war, it wasn't convenient any more to have a strong military Iraq, but the West wasn't able to attack under international law, if Saddam didn't attack first. A political masterpiece by Bush I.

At the end of the 90/91 Iraq war, the US gov't got out the message, it would support an insurgency against Saddam. A lot of Shiites tried, but as the US of course didn't want to strengthen the archenemy Iran, there was no response, when Saddam did revenge for the insurgency.

The weakened Saddam had to keep WMD or at least the rumor, that he would have WMDs to keep in power. Even without any military strength, this was used to implement sanctions, that killed up to 400000 people in Iraq. France demanded to give up the sanctions, but the US vetoed together with Britain against all other members.

The couple of 10000 people that were killed by Saddam's order without consent of the USA really shouldn't justify an intervention, with as much or more dead people, even in the best case - we know now, that the best case wasn't the case that came true, but the justification for any intervention on humanitarian grounds in Iraq is highly questionable at best, when the millions of dead were with the consent of possible interventionists.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 09:46:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How does that respond to my post?

I wrote that Saddam was the US's ally, I wrote that there wasn't a hue and cry for humanitarian intervention back then. By the way, you need to check out what Saddam was up to after the Gulf War. He kept on killing. It wasn't limited to the Iran/Iraq War. His numbers dwarfed Milosevic's after the war.

The point I was making is this: you had a genocidal lunatic in Iraq who was still killing (dissidents and Kurds, mainly). If retribution for past crimes applies to policy against the Serbs then how do you explain the attitude toward Hussein?

by Upstate NY on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 10:42:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Kosovo war was sold as stopping an ongoing crime, not as retribution for past crimes.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 11:15:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you putting emphasis on the "selling?" I know that's how it was sold. But we're talking about the reality here, aren't we?

1,500 were killed over two years prior in battling between a terrorist group, the KLA, and Serbian police in the province. We are talking about a low-level counter-insurgency. This pales in comparison to what Saddam was doing well past the Iraq-Iran War. 30,000 are estimated to have been executed as political prisoners alone in the years leading up to the recent invasion/war.

by Upstate NY on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 11:28:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You accuse people, who care for human rights, to have objected the war in Iraq as bigot, because of extreme double standards. For that indeed it is relevant, which informations were out in the public, and not what the reality on the ground was.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 11:31:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An in Germany there were as well demonstrations against the Kosovo war. There was for sure no 100% support for it.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 11:48:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I really think we're having a failure to communicate. I was just pointing out the irony of it all. This was in relation to comments about the media in Europe and elsewhere. If our media didn't consistently take the national line in foreign policy, then I'm sure people wold feel differently about the wars.
by Upstate NY on Tue Mar 10th, 2009 at 12:31:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually it was sold as an ongoing genocide.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 11:28:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The attitude towards Saddam was not as harsh as it should have been, because people didn't want a war. Nobody seriously denies, or has ever denied that Saddam has done lots of very evil crimes. But it when you try to stop a war effort against a country ruled by this dictator, it isn't the right time to put the focus on that.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 11:19:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll have to take issue with this:
the warrants against Bashir is the subversion of negotiations and diplomacy

because we don't have to look any farther than Bashir himself for subversion of diplomacy.

The ongoing effort coming out of Khartoum is to frustrate implementation of the CPA. I don't have to believe what I read in Op-ed pieces or hear at committee hearings to see this, I have only to look at the Sudan Times and read on the ground reports from UN personnel, the latest of which on the Malakal Crisis. Reports whose integrity I rely on subject to their own disclaimer:

Disclaimer: This report is a consolidation of information from OCHA field reports, UN agencies, UNMIS, NGOs, GoSS-SSRRC and other humanitarian partners. The report is subject to availability of data and does not claim to be exhaustive or fully verified and does not represent the official position of the United Nations. If you have inputs for the next edition, or questions/comments to the current issue, please contact. . . .

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire
by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 06:29:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes you're right about Bashir. My point however is this: If real force is excluded de facto, and Bashir is strengthened internally because of the warrant as he seems to be, isn't it likely that mediation is hampered by this action? Let alone the fact that this can be interpreted as "a slap in the face for the African Union". Or that totally predictable results of this action might prove deadly...

The only positive role this might play is adding some sort of leverage: "make a reasonable deal Bashir, and we'll withdraw the charges"... However I doubt that he cares that much, especially given that most of Africa and the Arab world is signaling that they won't accept the warrant. It might even harden his stance. It seems risky either way.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Mon Mar 9th, 2009 at 07:59:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's true that an AU warrant would have been much, much better.

But the AU isn't worth much of a damn as a political entity, nevermind a legal one, and it's going to be a long, long while before it is.

I guess the take-home point here is that it's not trivial to balance the need for some semblance of international rule of law with the need to support emerging local institutions.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Mar 10th, 2009 at 06:37:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well I would counter that supporting emerging regional institutions is in my book way above the appearance of international rule of law, as a way of discouraging / managing local crises in the medium term.

Especially, if we're talking about regional stability seriously, the AU should be put on all sorts of whatever is the diplomatic and economic equivalent of steroids for international organizations as fast as possible. Ignoring it does not help.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Tue Mar 10th, 2009 at 07:14:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So there you have it.  Damned if you do and damned if you don't.  

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears
by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Tue Mar 10th, 2009 at 10:57:05 PM EST
What's the greatest good? Ought we not risk the moral hazard of intervention to save x-number of lives? After all, Mill would get out his calculator and determine the greatest good for the greatest number and that would be that.

Yeah. When I start getting philisophical it's time to close the thread.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Wed Mar 11th, 2009 at 11:08:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's no way to satisfy everyone. No matter what is done there will be as many critics as those with praise.  One side or the other will get drowned out by the media, that's the only difference.

I say it's always worth a try to do good, but be ready for the backlash.  Next time around it may not be easy to get participants.  

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Mar 12th, 2009 at 07:20:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is the Darfur conflict about?

If wikipedia is right:

The combination of decades of drought, desertification, and overpopulation are among the causes of the Darfur conflict. The Baggara nomads searching for water have to take their livestock farther south, to land mainly occupied by Black African farming communities. [10]

So, a conflict of land. And what are the solutions? Support one side and watch it do unto the other what was done to it? Send out summons for the leaders to appear in court?

Or lessen the local population pressure by allowing migration. Few million green-cards should be enough, I bet the locals are even resouceful enough that they will get transportation set up themselves once it becomes clear that they will be legally allowed into the EU and USA.

Of course, this would threathen the economic division of the world and actually affect white people, not just the locals. So courts or bombs it is, that will solve the desertification just nicely.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Thu Mar 26th, 2009 at 05:17:10 AM EST

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